I'm no whiz at picking stocks, nor do I aspire to become one. But since I'm self-employed and solely responsible for financing my kids' college education and funding my own retirement plan, I've taken more than a cursory glance into that abyss once known as the greatest bull market of all time. And I've noted the increasing alarm with which some financial pundits foresee today's stock market repeating the collapse of 1929.
Are they right? Even the best market whizzes don't know for sure. Increasingly, though, I've come to feel that the question itself isn't the one I need to answer, and isn't even the one I need to ask. Not the direction of the stock market, but the direction of my own thinking, that's what has become key for me. What's impelling my financial decisions? That's the question. And maybe the answer will help me see that whatever the market does or doesn't do can't make or break me in any way.
Common market wisdom says up and down are the only directions in which the market moves. And that fear and greed are the forces that move it. But I don't want either of those "forces" impelling my investment decisions.
So I find myself longing for uncommon wisdom, for understanding that comes from a higher source. Because if fear and greed don't shape my decisions today, they're much less likely to impact my well-being tomorrow. To put it differently, if the forces leading to a possible 1929-like meltdown aren't allowed to stampede my thoughts, I've already begun to steer clear of catastrophe. I've already moved away from chimerical fantasies about phenomenal wealth, and toward a more durable sense of worth.
So what is it that directs me to that more durable worth? It's the uncommon wisdom, the spiritual understanding, that pervades the Bible. The book of Proverbs says, "Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver" (Prov. 8:18, 19). The "me" and "my" of that passage refer to understanding the spiritual understanding that derives from God, and which he gives to us, freely. And, as Proverbs makes plain, "durable riches" accompany that understanding.
God, or Mind, possesses unlimited understanding. And He never scrimps on giving His understanding to His loved children that is, to each one of us. Prayer shows us something of His nature and opens us to His understanding. Through prayer, His intuition, insight, foresight, start to characterize more and more of our outlook, guiding our course, impelling our decisions. Then the durable riches springing from His understanding have a way of showing up in our everyday lives.
Those durable riches aren't necessarily measured in terms of stocks or bonds or cash equivalents. Spiritual blessings such as life and health and holiness better describe them. But these and other spiritual facts have a wonderful way of being practically expressed in human life.
In other words, by drawing regularly on the understanding of God, we find we do have enough in our retirement account. Our costs are covered in sensible, though not always foreseeable, ways. God's provision for our needs tangibly appears.
In my own life, drawing on that spiritual understanding of God hasn't been like peering into some sort of crystal ball for future market gyrations. But more often than I can count, I've clearly been steered to good choices, including sound investment decisions, and away from unwise moves. I cannot explain this in any other way than as proof to me of God's guidance.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "Rest assured that He in whom dwelleth all life, health, and holiness, will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 186). That's a pattern of divine provision already repeated countless times throughout history. There's no law of God saying the bad stuff of mortal history has to repeat. We'll do better, we'll in fact be praying powerful prayer, when we draw on spiritual understanding and then look for the pattern of divine provision to be repeated again and again.